National Geographic : 1960 Oct
immediate family and a few close friends. In the brisk night air we all huddled on the benches while the priest began his chanting (page 468). Blessing a piece of cloth, the priest tied one end to Pal and the other to Usha as a symbol of their union. Then he recited mar riage vows, which the couple repeated; this went on for nearly two hours. Finally Pal and Usha walked seven times around the sacred fire, each turn accompanied by Pal's admonition to his bride: "Take thou one step for the acquirement of force, two steps for strength, three steps for the increase of wealth, four steps for well being, five steps for offspring, six steps for the season, seven steps as a friend. Be thou faithful to me, may we have many sons, and may they attain a ripe old age." At the end of the long ritual, Pal tied the sacred thread around Usha's neck, and there was a sigh of relief. There were the trousseau 470 and wedding gifts to display, and the pro cession to the house of Pal's family, where Usha would enact some small task symbolic of respect for her mother-in-law. With Usha, however, it was a token, for the couple were breaking away from yet another tradition, the joint family, which is almost universal in India. Most grooms bring their brides home to live with grandparents, parents, unmarried sisters, brothers, and all the offspring-often as many as 15 people in one house, and all expecting the bride to wait on them. In over populated India, where housing is scarce, the joint family has many advantages: the elders are cared for, there is little need for orphan ages, and family income is shared. But many of India's leaders complain that the system encourages slackers and stifles individuality. With Pal and Usha thoroughly married, thoroughly tired, and facing a full day of visiting, Helen and I offered our congratula tions and farewells.